LGA calls for action to tackle ‘historic low’ social housing figures

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The definition of “affordable housing” must incorporate homes for social rent in upcoming government changes to planning policy to combat the low numbers of social rented homes across the country, the Local Government Association says today (2 July)

The LGA has cautioned that homes specifically for social rent are in danger of being eliminated after a revision to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) failed to include the reference to “social rent” homes from the Government’s definition of affordable homes, whilst including Starter Homes and other, less genuinely affordable, forms of housing.

It comes amid an already “unprecedented shortage” in affordable housing with the supply of homes for social rent, which provides secure tenancies on low rents, at a historic low. Only 2.48% of homes built in 2016/7 were designated for social rent – down from 3.29% of all homes built the year previously.

All forms of affordable housing – including affordable homes for purchase through various initiatives – fell to 19% of new homes in 2016/17, the second-lowest figure ever recorded.

The LGA is calling on the Government to drop proposed amendments to the NPPF to guarantee homes for social rent remain part of planning policy and to supply a long-term strategy to deliver genuinely affordable housing in the upcoming Social Housing Green Paper.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils across England and Wales, will be publishing a new report “Housing, Planning and Homelessness” at its Annual Conference in Birmingham tomorrow (3 July) to set out how the Government can use its forthcoming Social Housing Green Paper to empower councils to trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding needed to fix our broken housing market.

This includes a call for the Government to ensure all councils can borrow to build to deliver new homes, keep 100% of receipts of homes sold under Right to Buy and adapt discounts locally, and powers to ensure all developments contribute to the provision of affordable housing.

Cllr Judith Blake, LGA Housing spokesman, said:

“Councils are determined to ensure their residents have access to affordable housing. By removing social rent from the definition of affordable housing, the Government has effectively removed the tool to help that happen.

“It’s essential that homes of all types and tenure are available so that local communities can deliver a balance of housing to meet a mix of needs. Homes for social rent can prevent people from spiralling into social housing, and alongside starter homes and new builds, play an important role in a thriving housing market.

“The country needs to be building approximately 300,000 homes a year of all types and tenure to address our housing shortage. It’s essential that the Government ensure social rent is included in the definition of affordable housing in the upcoming changes to planning policy, but more widely, the imminent Social Housing Green Paper is a real opportunity to give councils the tools they need to trigger the renaissance in council housebuilding we desperately need.

“All councils should be able to borrow to build, not just a select few, and the Government should take steps to allow this as soon as possible. In addition, councils should be able to keep 100 per cent of the receipts of the homes that are sold and adapt discounts locally to ensure a steady supply of genuinely affordable homes in our area.

“Tackling our national housing shortage is rightly a priority for the Government – it’s essential they put in place measures that would help, rather than hinder this, at the local level.”

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